North Carolina Central Eagles
North Carolina Central had a great 2014 season, and finishes #5 in our preseason power rankings. The Eagles finished the 2013-2014 season 28-6, with a terrific 15-1 record in the MEAC Conference. The Eagles won their conference tournament at the end of the year as well, and were good enough to make it into the NCAA Tournament as a 14 seed, only to lose to Iowa State in the first round. However, despite the sour ending to the year, NC Central played very well over the course of the year. NC Central had only two bad losses on the season, to Iupui early in the year, and then to Florida A&M in their conference opener. Both of these losses came on the road, as did every other loss that the Eagles had on the year. Perhaps the best win of NC Central’s season came when they visited Raleigh just before Christmas, and took down NC State in a game that need overtime to decide a winner. Starting 7-4 in the nonconference season, the Eagles needed to turn things around to have a shot at taking part in the Big Dance. They accomplished this in grand fashion, and went 15-0 to close out the season against fellow MEAC teams. While the MEAC conference is certainly nothing to get overly excited about, it is still impressive to have a record so strong. Closing out the regular season 15-0 also allowed NC Central to harness plenty of momentum for their conference tournament, which they won, earning an automatic bid to March Madness.
This season, NC Central retains many of their crucial players, who contributed so much to their impressive run last year. They not only keep four of their top six scorers, but also have plenty of experience. In fact, eleven of the fourteen players on this year’s roster are juniors or seniors. A lot of these players contributed largely to the team’s efforts last season, and will without doubt step up again this year, and possibly boost North Carolina Central back to the tournament. The path will again be fairly difficult in the nonconference schedule, as the Eagles have plenty of tests early on. It all starts with a visit to the number 6 ranked North Carolina Tarheels. This game, televised nationally on ESPNU, will be chance for the Eagles to show what they’ve got, and will probably be a great game to the end. Anytime a team like NC Central, who wants to prove something, has a chance to take down a more highly regarded opponent, they come out and play hard, and nothing less should be expected from the Eagles in this game. Throughout the rest of the nonconference schedule, NC Central will have other chances to pick up résumé building wins, in games at Creighton, Cincinnati, Maryland, and Memphis. Unfortunately, all of these games are on the road, which again is where NCCU saw all of their losses one year ago. NC Central can hope to win a couple of these games and enter the conference schedule with a respectable record. In the conference, things will likely look good again, as North Carolina Central should yet again win the MEAC. With talent and experience mixed together, the Eagles should be vying for a spot in the tournament, and will look to earn another automatic bid by winning their conference for the second year in a row.
Jordan Parks, Senior F – NC Central needs someone to step up and lead this season, and that could very well come from Jordan Parks, one of many seniors on the 2014-2015 NC Central squad. Parks played only 19 minutes per game last year, but averaged a solid 5.6 rebounds and 10.1 points per game on a great field goal percentage of .659. He will step into a larger role this year and will come into his own as a player and a leader. He will probably need to contribute more offensively and will earn more playing time. More of an under-the-radar player, Parks will become known this season.
The nonconference schedule is certainly difficult for NCCU this year, so don’t expect too much from them here. That being said, they will not perform terribly, but they will have a better conference season, similar to last year. Look for much of the same from NCCU, with a couple of early season upsets thrown in there. Final record forecast: 23-6